BEATIFICATION OF FIVE SERVANTS OF GOD
HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
1. "The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple" (I Corinthians 3: 17). We listen once again to these words of the apostle Paul in today's solemn liturgy of the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Cathedral of Rome, Mother of all the churches.
Every place set aside for divine worship is a sign of that spiritual temple, which is the Church, made up of living stones: of the faithful united by the one faith, of the participation in the Sacraments and of the bond of charity. The Saints, in particular, are precious stones of that spiritual temple.
Holiness, fruit of the unceasing work of God's Spirit, shines in the new Blesseds: Juan Nepomuceno Zegrí y Moreno, priest; Valentin Paquay, priest; Luigi Maria Monti, religious; Bonifacia Rodríguez Castro, virgin; Rosalie Rendu, virgin.
2. The vision of the Sanctuary presented to us in today's liturgy by the prophet Ezechiel describes a stream that flows from the temple carrying life, vigour and hope: "Everything will live where the river goes" (Ezekiel 47: 9). This image expresses God's infinite goodness and his design of salvation which scales the walls of the sacred enclosure and thus becomes the blessing of the entire earth.
Juan Nepomuceno Zegrí y Moreno, an upright priest of deep Eucharistic piety, understood well how the proclamation of the Gospel needed to become a dynamic reality, able to transform the apostle's life. As a parish priest, he was committed to "visibly providing for all those who, suffering from abandonment, must drink from the bitter chalice and receive nourishment from the bread of tears" (19 June 1859).
He developed his redemptive spirituality with this purpose, born from intimacy with Christ and directed towards charity for the neediest. He was inspired, through invocation to the Virgin of Mercy, Mother of the Redeemer, to found the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, with the aim of making God's love ever-present where there was "just one suffering to heal, one misfortune to console, one single hope to instil in hearts". Today this Institute, following in the footsteps of its Founder, continues its dedication to witness and promote redemptive charity.
3. Fr Valentin Paquay is truly a disciple of Christ and a priest according to the heart of God. As an apostle of mercy, he spent long hours in the confessional, with a special gift to place sinners anew on the right path, reminding men and women of the greatness of divine forgiveness. Placing the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery at the centre of his priestly life, he invited the faithful to come frequently to communion with the Bread of Life.
Like many saints, at a young age Fr Valentin was entrusted to the protection of Our Lady, who was invoked under the title of Cause of our Joy in the Church where he grew up, in Tongres. Following his example, may you be able to serve your brothers and sisters to give them the joy of meeting Christ in truth!
4. "I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple... everything will live where the water goes" (Ezekiel 47: 1, 9). The image of water, which brings everything back to life, illuminates well the life of Bl. Luigi Maria Monti, entirely dedicated to healing the physical and spiritual wounds of the sick and the orphaned. He loved to call them "Christ's poor ones", and he served them, enlivened by a living faith and sustained by intense and continual prayer. In his evangelical commitment, he was constantly inspired by the example of the Holy Virgin and placed the Congregation he founded under the sign of Mary Immaculate.
How relevant is the message of this new Blessed! For his spiritual sons and for all believers, he is an example of faithfulness to God's call and to the proclamation of the Gospel of charity. He is a model of solidarity towards the needy and of affectionate entrustment to the Immaculate Virgin.
5. The words of Jesus proclaimed in today's Gospel: "Stop turning my Father's house into a marketplace" (John 2: 16), question today's society, often tempted to turn everything into commodity and profit, putting aside values and dignity which do not have a price. Since the human person is the likeness and dwelling place of God, a purification is necessary, so as to protect the person beginning with his or her social condition or work.
Bl. Bonifacia Rodríguez Castro was dedicated entirely to this activity; she herself was a worker who understood the risks of the social condition of her age. In the simple and protected life of the Holy Family of Nazareth, she discovered a model of the spirituality of work that gives the human person dignity and makes every activity, however little it may seem, an offering to God and a means of sanctification.
This is the spirit that she wished to instil in working women, starting with the Josephine Association and then with the foundation of the Servants of St Joseph, who continue their work in the world with simplicity, joy and renunciation.
6. In an era troubled by social conflicts, Rosalie Rendu joyfully became a servant to the poorest, restoring dignity to each one by means of material help, education and the teaching of the Christian mystery, inducing Frédéric Ozanam to place himself at the service of the poor.
Her charity was inventive. Where did she draw the strength to carry out so many things? From her intense prayer life and the continuous praying of the Rosary, which she never abandoned. Her secret was simple: to see the face of Christ in every man and woman, as a true daughter of St Vincent de Paul and like another Sister of her epoch, St Catherine Labouré. Let us give thanks for the witness of charity that the Vincentian family gives unceasingly to the world!
7. "He spoke of the temple of his body" (John 2: 21). These works evoke the mystery of the death and Resurrection of Christ. All of the Church's members must be conformed to Jesus crucified and risen.
Mary, Mother of Christ and our Mother, is our strength and guide in this commitment. May the new Blesseds, whom we contemplate today in the glory of Heaven, intercede for us. May it also be granted to us all that we one day find ourselves in Paradise, to experience together the joy of everlasting life. Amen!
JOHN PAUL II
Sunday, 9 November 2003
At the end of this celebration, I would like to greet all the pilgrims present.
To French-speaking pilgrims
I greet the French-speaking pilgrims who have come for the Beatification of Fr Valentin Paquay and of St Rosalie Rendu, in particular, the members of their Religious Families, the Bishops, and those who are responsible for civil society.
To Spanish-speaking pilgrims
I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking Bishops, priests and faithful, as well as the civil authorities who are present for the Beatification of Juan Nepomuceno Zegrí and Mother Bonifacia Rodríguez. I greet especially the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy and the Servants of St Joseph.
To Italian-speaking pilgrims
I greet the pilgrims who have come from Italy and from other countries, especially the Sons of the Immaculate Conception, celebrating the Beatification of their founder, Luigi Maria Monti. I thank the Bishops and the civil authorities for their presence.
We now turn in prayer to Mary, Queen of Saints and model of Christians.
St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The liturgy today has us celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called the "mother and head of all the Churches of the Urbe and Orbe". Actually, this Basilica was the first to be built after the Edict of the Emperor Constantine who, in 313, conceded to Christians the freedom to practice their religion. The same Emperor gave Pope Miltiades the ancient estate of the Laterani family and had the Basilica, the Baptistery and the Patriarchate built for him, the latter being the Bishop of Rome's residence, where Popes resided until the Avignon era. The dedication of the Basilica was celebrated by Pope Silvester in about 324 and the temple was dedicated to the Most Holy Saviour; only after the 6th century were the names of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist added, from which came its common name. This occasion initially only involved the city of Rome; then, from 1565 onwards, it extended to the entire Church of the Roman rite. Hence, honouring the holy building is meant as an expression of love and veneration for the Roman Church "which", as St Ignatius of Antioch affirms, "presides in charity" over the entire Catholic communion (cf. Epistula ad Romanos, 1, 1).
The Word of God during this Solemnity recalls an essential truth: the stone temple is the symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, that the Apostles Peter and Paul had, in their Letters, already understood as a "spiritual building", constructed by God with the "living stones" that are the Christians, upon the one foundation that is Jesus Christ, who is in turn compared to the "cornerstone" cf. 1 Corinthians 3: 9-11, 16-17; 1 Peter 2: 4-8; Ephesians 2: 20-22). "Brethren,... you are God's building", St Paul writes, and he adds, "God's temple is holy, and you are that temple" (1 Corinthians 3: 9c, 17). The beauty and the harmony of churches, destined to render praise to God, invites us human beings too, though limited and sinful, to convert ourselves to form a "cosmos", a well-ordered construction, in close communion with Jesus, who is the true Holy of Holies. This reaches its culmination in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the "ecclesia" that is, the community of baptized finds itself again united to listen to the Word of God and nourish itself on the Body and Blood of Christ. Gathered around this twofold table, the Church of living stones builds herself up in truth and in love and is moulded interiorly by the Holy Spirit, transforming herself into what she receives, conforming herself ever more to her Lord Jesus Christ. She herself, if she lives in sincere and fraternal unity, thus becomes a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God.
Dear friends, today's feast celebrates an ever current mystery: that God desires to build himself a spiritual temple in the world, a community that adores him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4: 23-24). But this occasion reminds us also of the importance of the concrete buildings in which the community gathers together to celebrate God's praises. Every community therefore has the duty to carefully guard their holy structures, which constitute a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, so that she might help us to become, like her, a "house of God", living temple of his love.
After the Angelus:
Today is the 70th anniversary of that sad event which happened during the night of 9-10 November 1938 when the Nazi fury against the Jews broke out in Germany. Shops, offices, houses and synagogues were attacked and destroyed, numerous people were also killed, starting the systematic and violent persecution of the German Jews, which ended in the Shoah. Still today I feel pain for what came to pass in that tragic situation, the memory of which must serve to ensure that similar horrors do not repeat themselves ever again and that we commit ourselves, at all levels, to work against every form of anti-Semitism and discrimination, educating above all the young generations in respect and reciprocal acceptance. I invite you, moreover, to pray for the victims of those times and to unite with me in a profound manifestation of solidarity with the Hebrew world.
Disturbing news continues to reach us from the region of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Bloody, armed conflicts and systematic atrocities have claimed and continue to claim numerous victims among innocent civilians. Destruction, looting and violence of every kind have forced other tens of thousands of people to abandon even what little they had to survive. The number of refugees is currently estimated at more than one and a half million. To each and every one of them I wish to express my particular nearness, as I encourage and bless those who are working to alleviate their suffering, among which I refer especially to the local Church's pastoral workers. To the families deprived of their loved ones I extend my condolences and the assurance of my prayers of suffrage. Lastly, I renew my fervent appeal that all may collaborate to restore peace in that land, too long a land of martyrdom, respect for the legal rights and above all the dignity of every person.
To the English-speaking visitors:
I greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims who are here today, especially the groups from Billingham in England, Heulen in The Netherlands and Los Angeles, California. Today we celebrate the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the Mother Church of all the churches throughout the world. Let us rejoice in this great sign of our unity in faith and love, and let us resolve to become living stones, constantly growing into a holy Temple in the Lord. May God bless you all!
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today the liturgy commemorates the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which is the Cathedral of Rome and which tradition defines as “mother of all Churches of the city and of the world”. The term “mother”, refers not as much to the sacred building of the Basilica, as to the work of the Holy Spirit who is made manifest in this building, bearing fruit through the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, and in all communities which abide in unity with the Church over which he presides.
Each time we celebrate the dedication of a church, an essential truth is recalled: the physical temple made of brick and mortar is a sign of the living Church serving in history, that is to say, of that “spiritual temple”, as the Apostle Peter says, in which Christ himself is the “living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:4). In the Gospel from today’s liturgy, Jesus, speaking about the temple, reveals a shocking truth: that the Temple of God is not only a building made of brick and mortar, but is his Body, made of living stones. Through the power of Baptism, every Christian takes part in “God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9), indeed they become the Church of God. The spiritual structure, the Church community of mankind sanctified by the Blood of Christ and by Spirit of the Risen Lord, asks each one of us to be consistent with the gift of the faith and to undertake a journey of Christian witness. And we all know that in life it is not easy to maintain consistency between faith and testimony; but we must carry on and be coherent in our daily life. “This is a Christian!”, not so much in what he says, but in what he does, and the way in which he behaves. This coherence, which gives us life, is a grace of the Holy Spirit which we must ask for. The Church, at the beginning of her life and of her mission in the world, was but a community constituted to confess faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God and Redeemer of Man, a faith which operates through love. They go together! In today’s world too, the Church is called to be the community in the world which, rooted in Christ through Baptism, humbly and courageously professes faith in Him, witnessing to it in love.
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30 November 2014